Former reps: Increase support to Ukraine to deter Russia
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After the popular Maidan uprising in Kyiv three years ago, Russia seized and illegally annexed Crimea from Ukraine and launched a war in the Donbas, Ukraine's eastern region. In response, America and its allies sanctioned Russia and have aided Ukraine.

But the U.S. must increase support to democratic Ukraine and strengthen deterrence against Russian aggression.

Protests erupted in November 2013 when Ukraine's exceptionally corrupt President Viktor Yanukovych reneged on signing an association agreement with the European Union. Three months later, he fled Ukraine for Russia after his gunmen slaughtered 100 peaceful demonstrators on Kyiv's Maidan square and his backers abandoned him.

Seeing Ukraine slip from Russia's orbit, the Kremlin seized control of Crimea and dispatched mercenaries to the Donbas. The surprise takeover of Crimea was bloodless, but in the Donbas the mercenaries were unable to build popular support for separatism. As Ukrainian defenders rolled them back, Russian armed forces intervened and a military stalemate ensued.

Moscow continues to wage a simmering war in the Donbas, where some 10,000 people have been killed. Ukraine is among the world's countries with the highest number of internally displaced persons. It has lost control of one-tenth of its territory.

Moscow also failed to incite popular uprisings in the Kharkiv and Odessa regions — but that is not surprising. In the 1991 independence referendum, over 90 percent of Ukrainians, including over 80 percent in eastern Ukraine, voted "yes." Multiple elections in Ukraine have resulted in peaceful transfers of power, a democratic hallmark. Large majorities of Ukrainians are alienated from Russia and seek life in the European family.

Russia and its mercenaries in the Donbas have failed to implement the cease-fire agreed in the February 2015 Minsk accords. They refuse to allow the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to monitor the Ukrainian border with Russia in the occupied area.


Russian shells continue to pummel Ukrainian soldiers.

Moscow's aggression blatantly violates international treaties and the 1994 Budapest Memorandum by which Russia, the U.K. and U.S. pledged to respect Ukraine's territorial integrity and independence. These assurances were provided in return for Ukraine giving up its post-Soviet nuclear arsenal, then the world's third-largest.

Moscow claims its actions in Ukraine respond to the eastward expansion of NATO and the European Union. In fact, the Kremlin's real motive is to exercise a coercive sphere of influence over neighbors, a prescription for their permanent insecurity.

The United States should act in several ways.

First, Congress should urge the White House to provide Ukraine with lethal defensive arms, the supply of which the Congress authorized in a $350 million security aid package. Advanced anti-armor missiles could put at risk Russia's most modern tanks and help deter fighting.

Second, the immediate U.S. emphasis must be on inducing Russia to stop its war in the Donbas and withdraw its forces and mercenaries. Resolving Crimea will take longer; as with the Baltics during the Cold War, the West should never accept its illegal annexation.

Third, in March, the U.S. should extend its sanctions regime against Russia, just as the European Union did in December. Western economic sanctions are a major constraint on international finance and energy investment in Russia.

Fourth, the U.S., along with its Western allies, should press Ukraine to speed reforms and, as it does, provide more financial aid. Ukraine has made more economic and governance reforms since the Maidan uprising than in two decades prior. They are not enough, but more are going forward under International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank guidance.

Ukraine's economy is beginning to grow again, but it needs more incentives and a better climate for investment.

The president-elect seems eager for better ties with Russia, but they should not come at the expense of democratic Ukraine or while Moscow intimidates the Baltics. To do otherwise would embolden Russian revanchists and threaten vital U.S. and NATO interests in Central and Eastern Europe.

Senior Russians have warned that the rationale for intervening in Ukraine — the need to protect ethnic Russians and compatriots — applies elsewhere.

A stable, democratic Ukraine is essential for a Europe whole, free and at peace. The role of Congress in ensuring this is crucial. Bipartisan majorities have approved the Ukraine Freedom Support Act and the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, which have built security capacity, and the European Reassurance Initiative, which bolsters NATO in Central and Eastern Europe.

The West must sustain and increase pressure on Russia to withdraw from the Donbas and return the occupied area to Ukrainian control. We ask that the Congress continue supporting Ukraine and the principles of freedom and democracy on which America was founded.

Mike Fitzpatrick and Jim GerlachJames (Jim) GerlachThe business case for employer to employee engagement 2018 midterms: The blue wave or a red dawn? Pa. GOP 'disappointed' by rep retiring after filing deadline MORE formerly served as Republican congressmen from Pennsylvania. Dennis Hertel served as a Democratic congressman from Michigan and Jim MoranJames (Jim) Patrick MoranThe Hill's Top Lobbyists 2020 Lawmakers toast Greta Van Susteren's new show Star-studded cast to perform play based on Mueller report MORE served as a Democratic congressman from Virginia. They are the founders of the Former Members of Congress for Ukraine.

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